Black vs. Blue Ink: Best Pen Color for Different Situations

What ink color should you choose: black or blue?

The following guide shows you when to use black or blue ink in various situations and, interestingly, which color is best for creativity and memory retention.

Our comprehensive guide is here to help you make the right decision for filling out official documents, job applications, studying, and note-taking.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of black and blue ink to ensure you make a professional impression and enhance your memory recall.

Don’t miss these valuable insights!

1. Choosing the Right Ink Color for Filling Out Applications

When deciding on the ink color to use for filling out an application, it is essential to carefully read the organization’s or institution’s instructions and guidelines.

Most commonly, black ink is the preferred choice for official documents, as it provides clear contrast and is easy to read.

However, there may be instances where blue ink is acceptable or recommended. In such cases, using blue ink can help your writing stand out from the printed text on the form.

The key is to follow the specific requirements stated on the application to avoid issues, such as having your application rejected or delayed due to using the wrong ink color.

Always prioritize the instructions given and choose the ink color accordingly to ensure a smooth application process.

2. Selecting Ink Color for Job Applications

How to Choose the Right Ink Color for a Successful Job Application

Blue ink can be an appealing choice for job applications as it stands out against the printed black ink on the application form.

This contrast can make your application more visually distinct, potentially catching the eye of a hiring manager.

However, it’s crucial to remember that many application forms require black ink. For instance, a security firm’s job application might explicitly instruct applicants to complete the form in black ink on every page.

Before deciding to use blue ink for your job application, carefully review the entire form to ensure that there are no specific instructions regarding ink color.

Refrain from disregarding these guidelines could reflect poorly on your attention to detail and, in some cases, even lead to your application being rejected outright.

Choosing the correct ink color demonstrates your ability to follow instructions and your commitment to professionalism.

In cases where no ink color preference is stated, using blue ink could subtly make your application stand out.

However, weighing this against the potential perception that blue ink is less formal than black is essential.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to understanding the specific requirements and expectations of the company you are applying to.

When in doubt, it’s usually best to stick to black ink, as it is the common choice for professional documents and job applications.

Using black ink ensures your application aligns with general expectations and conveys a sense of professionalism and seriousness in your job search.

3. Ink Color Considerations for Passport and Visa Applications

Passport Application Example

A common question is what color ink to use on a passport application.

Adhering to each country’s specific ink color requirements is crucial when filling out passport or visa applications.

For example, black ink is mandatory for passport applications in the United States. The U.S. National Passport Services states that when filling out the Passport application form DS-82:

“A common mistake is using a blue pen instead of black ink to complete the form. It is clearly stated as one of the instructions that a black ink pen is required.”

The recommended method for applying for a new passport in the United Kingdom is online. However, paper applications are still accepted. The application form clearly states:

“Complete your paper form in CAPITAL LETTERS and BLACK BIRO only.”

Not only must the passport application be completed in black ink, but when you finally receive your new U.K. passport, advises that you must:

“Sign on the ‘holder’s signature’ line using a black ballpoint pen.”

It is important to note that they specify a black biro pen for passport application as a gel pen or rollerball may smear.

To learn more about the differences between these pens, refer to our Ballpoint, Rollerball, or Gel Pen Guides to determine which is best for you.

Following specific instructions from the respective country’s embassy or consulate is essential for visa applications.

They may have particular requirements regarding ink color, and using the wrong color may lead to delays or rejection of your application.

Therefore, always read the instructions carefully and adhere to the guidelines provided.

4. Blue or Black Ink: Credit Card Application Guidelines

Many credit card applications are now online, but it is best to use blue ink over black ink if you need to complete a written application.

Financial experts, such as Investopedia’s Gina Roberts-Grey, suggest that using blue ink can help avoid triggering fraud alerts.

Forensic handwriting expert Cina L. Wong, CDE, explains that blue ink is preferred because it allows banks and credit card companies to differentiate between an original signature and a photocopy.

With black ink, it may be more challenging to determine if the document is original.

Therefore, opting for blue ink when filling out credit card applications and other financial documents can provide an added layer of security and reduce the likelihood of raising concerns related to potential fraud.

Best Pen for Signing Credit Cards

Once your shiny new credit or debit card arrives in the post, you must sign it.

When signing the back of your credit card, choosing the right pen is essential to ensure a clear and durable signature.

The best pen to sign credit cards is a black ballpoint pen.

Ballpoint pens have fast-drying, oil-based ink that resists smudging on a credit card’s surface.

Black ink is universally accepted and easily recognizable.

5. Blue or Black Ink for Legal and Official Documents?

Legal and Official Documents

The question often arises regarding legal documents: “What color pen should be used for legal documents?”

In general, black ink should be used to write legal documents due to its superior scanning and digitizing capabilities, particularly with older or less expensive copiers and scanners, which are still commonly used.

Black ink scans better than blue, which tends to show up very lightly.

The significance of ink colors on legal papers goes beyond mere aesthetics.

Different ink colors can impact important documents’ legibility, validity, and preservation. For example, choosing the appropriate ink color, such as black, can help ensure that legal papers remain clear and easily readable over time.

In some instances, such as with Chinese officials, they are so strict about black ink and reject documents submitted in blue.

Additionally, using a consistent ink color across legal documents creates a sense of uniformity and professionalism, which can be crucial in legal settings where attention to detail and adherence to the protocol are highly valued.

So, just to be safe, it is advisable to use black ink when filling out or signing legal and official documents unless specifically instructed otherwise.

6. Black or Blue Ink: Making the Right Choice in Business

Black ink is traditionally the default choice for most business settings, including government offices.

The Fountain Pen Network

In a discussion about blue or black ink at Fountain Pen Network, one of the users referenced Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, which states,

“(For business purposes) black remains the most correct and distinguished choice.

Blue is very much in second place and is considered more suitable for women than men.

Blue-black is only appropriate for schoolboys.

Colored inks, although more acceptable than before, are still considered very suspect in traditional circles.”

Although technological advances have eliminated ink readability on scanners and copiers, people often stick to tried and tested methods out of habit.

There is also a widespread perception that black ink appears more professional, which could influence individuals to conform to the use of black ink in workplace settings.

However, it would be best if you did not dismiss blue ink entirely, as it has several advantages over black ink.

Blue ink can be easily distinguished from the printed text on documents, making it ideal for signatures and annotations.

Additionally, blue ink is less likely to trigger fraud alerts on financial documents, as it is easier to identify an original document signed in blue than one signed in black.

Ultimately, the choice between black and blue ink in business settings may depend on the specific context and requirements of the situation.

But don’t count blue out yet. It turns out that it has a lot to recommend over black.

7. Exam Success: Which Ink Color to Use?

When it comes to which color pen is best for exams? In many educational settings, black ink is the preferred choice for exams.

For instance, in the U.K., black ink is mandatory for secondary school-level exams, such as GCSEs. If you are in the U.S. or another country, it is advisable to double-check with teachers or the examining board if you are unsure about the ink color requirements.

Aside from ink color, selecting the right pen is equally essential for exam success.

Choosing a reliable, high-quality pen that is comfortable to use and won’t fail to work in the exam is crucial.

Our guide on The Best Pens for Exams provides more information on choosing the ideal pen for your exams and our top recommendations.

Black ink is typically the recommended choice for exams due to its readability and adherence to educational guidelines.

However, always verify the specific requirements of your exam to ensure that you comply with the rules and regulations.

8. Voting: Does Ink Color Matter?

If you have taken the time and trouble to go to the polling station to vote, then make sure your vote counts.

Use black ink to vote; after pencils, black pens are the recommended tool for voting for the U.K. Some voting machines in the U.S. have even been known not to count votes cast in blue.

9. Signatures: Black or Blue Ink for Optimal Results?

Example of a Signature in Blue Ink

When signing documents, the choice between black and blue ink depends on the context. While many official documents require signatures in black ink, blue ink is often considered a more intelligent choice for signatures in other circumstances.

You should use a blue ink signature when distinguishing an original document from a copy is crucial.

High-quality copiers can produce copies almost indistinguishable from the original, making it difficult to determine the genuine document.

The U.S. Military is happy with either black or blue Army Regulation AR-25-50, 1-20 Preparing and Managing Correspondance states, “Correspondence will be printed in black ink and may be signed in blue or black ink.”

However, as previously mentioned, documents like passports must be signed using a black ballpoint pen.

An individual’s signature can reveal more about them than one might think, and neatness does count.

Marketing research has consistently found that fundraising letters, questionnaires, and other materials often receive more and faster responses if they feature a handwritten signature in blue ink rather than typed or signed in black.

This preference for blue ink signatures may be due to the perception of authenticity and the personal touch it conveys.

10. Unlocking Memory Recall: The Best Pen Color

The Effects of Ink Colors and Memory Recall

When studying a lot, it makes sense to give yourself an advantage. For example, if you take many notes, finding out what color pen is best for memory makes sense.

For instance, is blue or black ink best for memory? It turns out that one of the most significant benefits of using blue ink: improved memory recall.

Psychology research suggests that reading and writing text written in color increases the likelihood that you will remember that information.

Most experiments have been relatively small-scale, but the results are intriguing.

For example, one experiment with a group of male and female Grade 9 students found participants had greater recall with red text than blue and greater recall with blue than with black (33% vs. 27%). Interestingly, a couple of the experiments I saw suggested that girls had better overall recall than boys when color was a factor.

(If you’d like to conduct your own blue or black ink recall experiment, Science Project Ideas has an informally suggested methodology.

11. Boosting Study Efficiency with the Right Pen Color

When deciding what color pen is best for studying at first glance, it would make sense that when recalling written text, students recall more red words than blue and more blue words than black to write their study notes in red.

However, red is quite a harsh color on the eye to read a full page of text in just this color. Based on the research, I would suggest experimenting with using red ink for titles, subject headers, etc.,

It will make them stand out, and blue ink for the main body text.

Red and blue ink colors used for headings and text

As you can see from the diagram, using red ink to highlight the headings makes the text easier to read than writing it all in the same color.

It may be that you prefer a combination of red ink for the headings and black ink for the rest of the text, and if that is the case, use whatever works best for you.

12. Ink Color’s Impact on Creativity

Which Ink Colour Improves Creativity

I had never considered whether the color I use to write influences my creativity.

My perspective on the blue or black ink question has started to shift late, mainly because of an experience with blue ink.

Like many others, I typically use black pens – just because that’s what I’ve always done.

However, as I began working on a novel, I kept a notebook handy to jot down ideas when inspiration struck.

One night, when a thought occurred, I grabbed the notebook and my usual black Bic Velocity gel pen, only to find it was out of ink.

Desperate to capture the idea before it vanished, I went to my pen drawer and grabbed the first one my hand touched – a Pilot Precise V5 with vibrant blue ink.

Pilot Precise V5

To my surprise, the ideas I scribbled down in blue ink remained compelling the next day and spurred additional creative thoughts.

It turns out that my experience was not so unusual.

While researching this post, I stumbled upon a New York Times article about a study that found that red helped people improve cognition and productivity, while blue sparked creativity.

The choice of ink color can surprisingly impact creativity and imaginative thinking.

While black and blue ink is common choices for official documents and formal writing, exploring other colors can stimulate creativity and foster a more innovative mindset.

Various studies have shown that certain colors evoke specific emotions and psychological responses. For example, green is often associated with growth, tranquility, and creativity. Incorporating green ink in brainstorming sessions, journaling, or sketching could enhance your creative output.

Although, as discussed in one of our posts, green Ink is also associated with spies and eccentrics.

Similarly, red ink can evoke passion and excitement and benefit brainstorming and idea generation.

However, using red sparingly is essential, as too much of it may become overwhelming and distracting.

Colors like purple, associated with imagination and spirituality, can also help inspire creative thinking.

Experimenting with purple ink may bring new perspectives and ideas when working on a creative project.

So now, while blue ink may not be suitable for every situation, I will ensure I always have a blue pen close at hand for how many times it is.

Incorporating various colors in your writing, sketching, or note-taking allows you to tap into different emotional responses and enhance your creativity.

13. Summary: Ink Color Selection Guidelines

For those who are too busy and don’t want to read the full post, here’s what I generally recommend:

  • Use black ink to fill out official records, passport signatures, memos, work correspondence, and exams.
  • Opt for blue ink for business signatures, credit card applications, and most other signatures.
  • For note-taking and learning purposes, use blue or red ink.
  • For creative purposes, blue or another color might be more suitable.
  • When filling out applications or official forms, always follow the specific instructions provided by the organization or institution.

Final Thoughts on Choosing the Ideal Ink Color

14. Final Thoughts on Choosing the Ideal Ink Color

In conclusion, choosing between black and blue ink depends on a given situation’s specific context and requirements.

While black ink is typically the default choice for official documents, exams, and legal purposes, blue ink can offer advantages in specific scenarios, such as distinguishing original documents from copies and providing a personal touch in business signatures.

For studying and note-taking, experimenting with different ink colors, including red, might improve memory recall.

Ultimately, following the guidelines provided by organizations or institutions and considering the purpose and context when choosing an ink color is essential.

By doing so, you can ensure a professional appearance, compliance with requirements, and potentially improved outcomes in memory and recall.

Photo of author

Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

18 thoughts on “Black vs. Blue Ink: Best Pen Color for Different Situations”

  1. I think that if that is so, then even if in a place, the Vice Chancellor, Heads and Deans,(or the Director,Principal,Vice Principal,Head Masters/Head Mistresses and Coordinators) use green ink and the teachers (Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, Professors, PGTs, TGTs, PRTs and NTTs) use red pen, though the students may be required to use only blue ink and black ink, the passouts (alumni and alumnae) should never be forced to obey that directive as they are no more parts of their alma mater which the rest people are still parts of

  2. I prefer black pens myself. The ink holds up better over time in my old notes and journals. I did notice the last time I signed documents we were given blue pens.

  3. Your article doesn’t even mention a type of communication that used to be the main form of correspondence and underscores a huge void in our society: personal correspondence. Who still doesn’t enjoy receiving a personally handwritten letter? Use blue for person correspondence.

    • Hi Deborah

      Thanks for pointing this out blue for personal correspondence is a great choice but there are many other colors out there which people use for personal correspondence.

  4. I have always liked blue ink simply because it does stand out, even back in the typewriter black ribbon days, you knew you have the original copy, the signature. Anyone remember carbon paper?

    Always liked blue ink while in school.

    I have a bottle of Private Reserve chocolate.

    What I like about it, it has the look of business ink, like black. It more of a dye ink, seems to penetrate into the fiber, stains into the paper.

    If you wet it, it turns pinkish red, but still stays on the paper. It would be extremely hard to try and wash out a signature or an amount. And the change of color is a giveaway that someone tampered with it.


  6. I’ve heard that it’s good to use the same ink pen everytime.i mean,if you are using a black pen for writing your notes you should use the same in your exams . otherwise you may forget those this true?

  7. Great Post! My preference is blue Ink for my primary writing and various colors for notes. I LOVE Gel fine point pens. Some of my favorite brands are Tul, Pentel Energel, Pilot High-Tec-C, Poppin, Bic Cristal Gel + and Stabilo. I’m also a big fan of Pilot Frixon Erasable Pens.

    I concur with Cina L. Wong’s comment pertaining to blue ink in reference as to whether you’re looking at a photocopy or an original. I was a previous Investigative Supervisor for a government agency and I always explained to my staff the reason why I preferred blue ink vs. black.

    It’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one out there that has a “thing for pens.” I’ve been known as the pen scrooge since I don’t let anyone “borrow” my pens. They’re like my children 🙂

  8. My philosophy is unless it is prohibited, one should always use blue for anything that others will read. For recorded documents, checks and anywhere I am concerned about security, I use Noodlers Bad Blue Heron. For personal use, e.g., notes, I like Diamine Royal Purple.

    I started using purple in law school 20+ years ago and I still prefer it on canary paper. I’ve never had anyone say anything about it.

  9. Do we write with both blue and black pens in exams??? I mean how we write our notes like writing the main points with black pen and its explaination with blue pen

    • In the UK you should write with black ink in exams for other countries I would check with your teachers before sitting the exam. after all, you do not want your paper to be rejected or marked down because you used the wrong ink colour. Check out our post on the best pens for exams

  10. Great article! I prefer blue ink because it stands out compared to most printed ink or handwriting since those tend to be mostly black ink. You write a nice overview of the pros and cons of both ink colors.


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